By Don Leighton
For the Telegram
In the grand scheme of world history, 100 years is a blink of the eye. But in the life of a person known by many and respected by all he has met, 100 years is an incredible amount of time, but only if it is spent wisely.
On Saturday, Jan. 5, one such man, Herman Hammerbeck, will be celebrating his 100th birthday with family and friends.
Herman is a lifelong resident of Superior and grew up on 24th Street near Tower Ave. He attended Pattison School and graduated from Superior Central High School in 1936. Upon graduation, he went to work for his father at Silver-Tonsberg Printing.
He married his wife, Kathryn Nelson, on Dec. 13, 1941. Unfortunately, Kay passed away in February 2016 as they were about to celebrate their 75th anniversary.
Their honeymoon was short as Herman joined the Army Air Force in 1942. He was assigned to a unit that built air strips and facilities in northern Africa and Italy.
While in Italy, he traveled to Rome, went to the Vatican and he and his fellow American troops were greeted by the pope. The pope must have heard Herman Hammerbeck was there.
In 1945, he returned to Superior and continued to work at Silver Tonsberg Printing. In 1947, his first son, Bruce, was born. In 1950, his second son, Paul, was born, completing the family.
Obviously, Herman had been pretty busy for the first 32 years of his life. So, what does he do? He began to build a summer home on Whitefish Lake in Gordon, where he spent most summer weekends and vacations.
Countless hours were spent as a carpenter and construction worker during his free time.
After a few years of helping Kay raise the boys, building the cabin, working full time, he decided he needed to do more, and in my opinion, this is where the story gets interesting.
In 1956, he, and others, were instrumental in forming the Superior Youth Organization, which created Little League baseball in Superior.
From 1959 to 1962, he coached the Dodgers, which Paul played on. They were city champs in 1961, so you can add champion to Herman’s resume.
In the late 1950s, he was on the steering committee to form the Superior Amateur Hockey Association.
His dedication, along with other committee members, William Boya, Chester Frost, William Germond, Kenneth LaMone, Paul Krisak, Joseph Leszcynski, Robert Cole, Ray Matushak, Roy Martinson and Jack Lund, created what has become the home of one of the greatest youth organizations of any sport in Wisconsin.
Countless thousands of youth and adults have been the beneficiaries of Herman and his committee members.
SAHA incorporated Jan. 12, 1961. I don’t know if there is a plaque or monument to these men, but there should be.
Time to relax, right? No time like the present to stay busy for Herman. He coached the Pattison Flyers Bantams to two city championships, and in 1966, as president of SAHA, he worked to get the first artificial ice surface in the old Superior Municipal Ice Rink, where Super One and Keyport are located.
After his sons graduated from high school, Herman and Ray Matushak coached the Superior PeeWee All-Stars to two state championships in the early 1970s.
Golf has always been a passion for Herman. He played in the Nemadji Bushwacker and the Senior League from 1960-2010. He finally retired from the golf game at 91 years old.
He has bragging rights over Paul, as well. He has a hole-in-one. Brother Bruce has one, too.
Talk about being involved, Herman was a charter member of the Superior Lions Club from 1949-89 and he was a former president and earned the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Lions International Organization.
My only concern about Herman is one shared by his sons, relatives and neighbors. He is a staunch Minnesota Viking fan.
Because of his Central High School roots with Bud Grant, I guess I can understand. Grant also has a summer home in the Gordon area.
When the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota in 1961, Herman became an avid Minnesota Twins fan. He and Kay would watch or listen to every game they could. They routinely were a part of all 162 games in many years.
He took his sons to Minneapolis to see his favorite team and Paul remembers one game in which Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison hit first-inning, grand slam home runs. That’s a memory that will last forever.
The 100 years has probably passed by too quickly, but I wonder what Herman has up his sleeve now? I know he is going to stay active, mentally alert and busy. He is a good man. He is part of the “greatest generation.”
It was my honor to have met you, Herman. Thank you for the opportunity and for all you have done for so many people.
Good health, and happy birthday, my friend.
The “Have Fun or Get Out of the Way” column by Don Leighton runs occasionally in the Superior Telegram. Opinions and/or story ideas can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.